Silver DofE Practice Expedition, New Forest

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English

The Silver Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Practice Expedition, held over three days in the New Forest last weekend, was the perfect place for Block 4 participants to learn how to navigate properly, some for the first time. The challenges of the forest – paths are not clearly sign posted and blend into other paths or trail off unto thick undergrowth or fenced enclosures – meant that groups quickly learnt the importance of the compass and trying to keep to a bearing.

On day one, each group walked with a member of staff, who expounded navigation knowledge and important aspects of the country code that cannot be gleaned in the classroom. Group 5 walked with Harrison and felt inspired to write a song about their day: he has a shout out in the song. The tail end of Storm Hannah meant that strong winds made putting up tents extremely challenging on Friday night; groups learnt quickly the value in pegging down the tent before putting in the poles. This stops the tent turning into an aerodynamic kite that might fly away! Group 2 piled into tents after dark, to play cards, keep warm and wonder who might blow away. Thankfully, no one did.

It was a noisy night, but many were worn out and slept regardless. On day two, the weather was kinder. Light showers meant that people got to try out their waterproofs and were glad that rucksacks had outer covers or that they had wrapped their clothes inside dry bags. Navigation remained challenging, and the GPS trackers carried by each group, revealed that many were not on their planned route, and some groups were walking with another group. Like winged-Hermes, staff whizzed through the forest on their bikes to find groups, separate them, reroute them and occasionally lift morale with squares of chocolate. By the afternoon, all groups were walking their correct routes; Group 3 arrived into camp ahead of time and Group 1 must be commended for not sort-cutting at all. On Saturday night in camp there was a very relaxed mood with evening sunshine to enjoy and more than half of the expedition completed.

On Day 3, all groups were out by 9am and although tired and aching, spirits were high. Indeed, everyone completed the expedition and went home with blisters, but nothing more serious. Group 4 enjoyed a rest break at the Reptile Centre, and managed to resist the temptation to visit Acre Down farm shop. It must be noted that food was at a shortage. Some participants had not packed proper lunches, and relied heavily on snack-bars and kindly teachers with spare toast or carrots in their bags, and some did not have enough food to fill them up in the evenings after seven or more hours walking. It is expected that mistakes will be made on the practice, so that they won’t occur on the qualifying expedition to the South Downs in September.

A big thank you to Paul for organising such a successful event, and to Fiona, Rob, Harrison and Allen for giving up time to share their knowledge and experience with Block 4.

Duke of Edinburgh’s Award update


By Paul Turner, Head of Geography and DoFE Centre Coordinator

Last year, students grasped the opportunities available through DofE with both hands and the number of participants increased fivefold with half the school involved. Students camped and walked in Dartmoor as well as Dorset and the South Downs. The DofE Award continues to be highly valued by employers and universities alike and is a useful badge – recognising much of what the students already do as part of everyday life at Bedales.

This year, we’ve expanded the team with Ana Simmons taking responsibility for the Silver Award (available to all Block 4’s) and myself leading the Gold Award (available to all 6.1’s) with the award running across the two sixth form years. Following a trial of the Bronze Award with Block 3, we have instead decided to focus the school’s resources on the Silver and Gold levels. There is no prerequisite for each level and it is common for schools to offer only specific levels.

A new addition this year is the introduction of DofE comments to the review cycle for specific year groups, and we hope this will improve the regular nature of communication and allow parents to better understand the progress their child is making. It is important to reiterate the independent nature of the award: students are required to evidence and organise much of what they do themselves within the framework provided and upload the appropriate material to the edofe website. Another important point to emphasise is the composite nature of the award with the expedition being one of four components including the physical, skills and volunteering. As was the case last year, students will not be permitted to participate in the expedition unless they have submitted evidence for at least two of the other award sections.

Looking forward, we have Silver expeditions in the New Forest and South Downs planned as well as Gold expeditions: one walking in the Brecon Beacons, another canoeing on the River Wye. Gold students continue weekly training as part of their expedition preparation and Silver students in Block 4 continue their Friday afternoon activity having now been allocated their expedition groups and leader.